Tag Archives: lgbt

LGBT History Month in Books and Publishing

February is LGBT History Month in the UK, a month to remember the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people throughout history and to raise awareness of the current position of LGBT people in society. We thought this would be a good time to reflect on and celebrate LGBT authors and those working in publishing.

LGBT booksDetail of the portrait of a young woman (so-called Sappho) with writing pen and wax tablets

I am a big fan of LGBT literature, with my dissertation at university being about the influence of Sappho on twentieth century female poets – Anne Carson, with her beautiful translations of Sappho’s fragments; Amy Lowell, chronically overshadowed by her relative Robert; Olga Broumas and her collaborations with Jane Miller and T. Begley, celebrations of female love and desire.

Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Patrick Ness, Sarah Waters, Rita Mae Brown, Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith… LGBT writers and texts have helped shape literary history, though many are forgotten, or their sexuality hidden. Many chose not to write explicitly about their sexualities, due to censorship. Today we obviously do not censor LGBT literature, though barriers remain to getting published. Books featuring LGBT characters may be considered more niche and therefore not chosen for publication. As a result, LGBT authors and characters are underrepresented on our bookshelves.

What’s changing in the publishing industry?

Publishers are trying to change this and diversify their lists. Penguin Random House launched Write Now in 2016, a programme for un-agented writers from communities underrepresented in publishing. This includes those from BAME and LGBT+ communities. Selected writers are invited to insight days and ten are selected for a year-long mentoring programme, with the aim to then publishing these writers.

Little Tiger announced today that they will be publishing a short-story anthology for young adults written by LGBT+ authors. They are now accepting submissions for PROUD from unpublished and un-agented LGBT+ writers.

Last year, Pride in Publishing launched as a network for anyone who identifies as LGBT+ working in the UK publishing industry. They hold bimonthly networking events and committee meetings which all members are welcome to attend.

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Building Inclusivity in Publishing Conference 2017

Is Publishing Inclusive these days?

Diversity or inclusivity in publishing is very much in the industry news and I went along to the Building Inclusivity in Publishing Conference organised by the London Book Fair and the Publisher’s Association. It’s really good that the industry is addressing this, but it does feel like it’s a particular issue within Trade book publishing. We work with a wide range of sectors in publishing (academic, educational, professional, trade, STM, B2B) and there is a much more mixed demographic across the other sectors.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Creative Industries said diversity is a moral imperative and our social and economic responsibility which I’m sure we all agree with. Everyone also seemed to agree we need to have more role models from diverse backgrounds and it’s vital that there is diversity in senior leadership. Simon Dowson-Collins, General Counsel and Company Secretary at HarperCollins acknowledged that all people are different – some are extrovert, some introvert but it’s important to speak out so people can see BAME people in senior roles and aspire to it.

Halo/Horns Effect

In terms of recruitment, it’s important to have processes in place that avoid what’s called the ‘halo / horns’ effect – where you immediately warm to people like you and are less keen on those who are different. Some of our publisher clients are on top of this, for example using new processes that strip out names in the application process so hiring managers are not biased in their selection process. There have also been some recent strides including the HarperCollins BAME scheme, Little Brown’s new imprint Dialogue Books (publishing books by people under-represented in publishing).

Broadening Inclusivity in Entry-Level Recruitment

The afternoon session looked at broadening inclusivity in entry-level recruitment in publishing and there has been some progress in this area – it’s no longer the case that an English lit degree and a love of books is enough! Initiatives like Penguin no longer requiring a degree and offering help with accommodation and HarperCollins using video interviews and having a BAME grad scheme are helping. But it needs more work like us going in to schools to encourage publishing as a great career for all.

The Publisher’s Association has a 10-Point Inclusivity Action Plan that publishers can sign up to and is definitely worth a read to get some good ideas!

#Inclusivityconf17

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